Life loses its magic quickly. We grow up. Time instills in us fears that blind us to adventure, experiences which numb us to hope, and burdens that overshadow the lonely free spirit that sits caged in the corner of our souls. I tend to be a child most of the time.
For better and for worse, the process of becoming an adult has been a slow one for me. (The fact that I ate cookies for lunch and skipped dinner today may indicate as much).
But one of the advantages of going through spurts of ten-year-oldisms is the delightfully squeelish feeling of joy in circumstances beyond our control – like a perfect day, a letter from home, warm socks after walking through the rain.
Most often I get that feeling at school when I’m walking through empty corridors at the end of a good day and the windows are letting in soft sunshine. My footsteps echo. My shadow follows me along the wall of classrooms. My fingers clench so as not to scare the cleaning ladies at the end of the hall as I physically attempt to restrain my desire to burst into giggles or song or both. It’s that feeling like you don’t want to be anywhere else in the world at that moment but right where you are. It’s like Christmas morning.
But lately I’ve been bogged down with the grown-up side of life. The side which says I need to start thinking about my plans for next year, my friendships back home, my goals, my future… It’s hard to have those spasms of joy when you’re worried about tomorrow.
Last weekend I accepted an invitation to visit a friend and her family in a South Bohemian town called Česky Budejovice. I was looking forward to a weekend away from my regular rigmarole (though still letting it sit in the form of stress in the high priority seating located towards the front of my mind), but my friend doesn’t speak much (any?) English and I had never met her daughter (who is my age and attends a University in Prague).
For those of you who may not fully appreciate the total immersion language experience – it’s terrifying. Especially if your best (and only?) quality is putting people at ease through conversation. But that aside, it takes tremendous mental effort to be concentrating on understanding and responding in another language all day, to the point where you feel physically exhausted. We take it for granted both how much we use language and how little we need to think about it. And it’s just embarrassing having to pause before every word and still mix up conjugations, declensions, and vocabulary.
So it was with a brave face and a lot of trepidation that I walked into Ivana’s modest apartment and met her daughter, Katka. Continue reading